Ride 160 miles down the Alsek River with three extra days for hiking through the largest contiguous protected wilderness in the world. On this trip, we will also raft Class II-Class IV rapids watching glaciers calve into the water and spotting spectacular wildlife. Camp riverside and enjoy delicious meals while listening to river lore around the campfire. Take a helicopter portage over a risky stretch of river, enjoy optional day hikes up mountain peaks, and float past dense canyon forests. With raw nature on display at every bend, this is a unique pilgrimage for thrill-seekers, through one of the earth's last great frontiers.
Float past and hike near the largest icebergs in all of Glacier Bay National Park and raft Class II-IV rapids
Take an exciting helicopter portage and explore the Alsek's legendary Turnback Canyon by foot
Spend three extra days hiking to remote parts of the spectacular Alsek River wilderness
Arrive in Haines, Alaska by 3:30pm to have enough time to check in and clean up for the 5pm pre-trip meeting and welcome dinner at the Halsingland Hotel.
After breakfast, board a van for a beautiful drive up the Chilkat River Valley, and on to Haines Junction in Yukon Territory, Canada. En route stop at the Kluane National Park visitor center to learn about this vast wilderness. After lunch, drive to the put-in point on the Dezadeash River. (You may choose to hike part of the way.) Begin floating down the Dezadeash to the confluence with the Kaskawulsh River, where the Alsek River begins. (If it's very windy, the river trip may begin the next morning.)
Continue downstream on the Alsek, passing through mostly Class II rapids and spectacular scenery of large bedrock islands. There may be time to hike into the heights above the river for panoramic views. Float further into the wilderness and camp near the Lowell Glacier, part of the vast St. Elias icefields. The river flows into Lake Lowell, formed by the terminal moraine of the glacier; camp on that moraine for a striking view of the glacier.
This day we hope the wind is calm, as we make our way across Lowell Lake when the Lowell Glacier ends. This lake is teeming with iceberg bits that have calved and fallen off glacier on the other end of the lake. It's a spectacular sight to raft through these glacier pieces, and listen and watch the glacier's movement all night long.
A great hiking option from this area is a 4-hour scramble up 3,500-foot Goatherd Mountain, with alpine tundra, mountain goats perched on cliffs, and wildflowers abloom in summertime. From the summit, take in outstanding vistas of the St. Elias range and the huge Lowell Glacier. On clear days, it's possible to see Mounts Kennedy, Hubbard and Alverstone, over 35 miles to the west.
Launch the rafts into the river and navigate through the icebergs at the snout of the Lowell Glacier. Take in this surreal scene as the icebergs calve off the glacier and float in this lake-like section of the river. The river picks up speed dramatically as it begins to cut through narrower canyons and increase in volume.
Take easy routes through some of the rapids; by mid-afternoon, though, encounter "Lava North," a challenging section of Class IV whitewater that's fun and thrilling. Our guides will scout the rapid beforehand and determine the best route through. For the rest of the day, the water is swift with continuous small rapids as the river cuts through the Alsek Range.
Enjoy the expansive hiking opportunities on this day, with a wide range of landscapes that the Alsek Range offers. We will explore Plug Creek drainage and the flora and fauna that this unique landscape has to offer. We will also explore the retreating Fisher Glacier and the turquoise blue moraine lake that is being left in its disappearing path.
Watch the scenery and look out for wildlife such as grizzly bear, moose, wolf, muskrat, wolverine, mink, snowshoe rabbit, hoary marmot, and Alaska red fox, along with numerous bird species. Reach the Tweedsmuir Glacier with its Turn Back Canyon, filled with sharp drops and horrendous currents: impossible for rafting.
Take a relatively easy hike to the mouth of Turnback Canyon and see the impossibility of rafting this boiling cauldron of unnavigable rapids and constricted flows in this tight canyon opening. Explore the turquoise blue waters of abandoned meanders that are left behind by the retreating Tweedsmuir Glacier. See for yourself why this canyon is host to such legendary folklore in river running.
Prepare the gear for transport, and board a helicopter for a short flight to the gravel flats south of the canyon. From the chopper see every hairpin turn and the churning water crashing into the canyon walls. The scenery changes on the other side - the river is wider, there are numerous braided channels and more vegetation, and bald eagles perch along the mossy cliffs of the Icefield and Noisy Ranges. Relaunch the rafts and drift through the wide valley towards the majestic confluence of the Tatshenshini and Alsek rivers.
Continue down the river through deep forested canyons toward the coast. On the southern horizon, a dozen glaciers flow down from the Fairweather Range, while the Alsek disappears back to the north and east into the symmetrical peaks and waterfalls of the Noisy Range. To the west, the main channel of the Alsek flows into the Fairweather Range, where it seems to sink into the forest. The river below its confluence with the Tatshenshini is a vast, gravel flat, braided with channels and ringed with willow, birch, and alder forests.
Closer to the Gulf of Alaska, the climate becomes more maritime and the glaciers more numerous. Farther down the river, pass the Walker Glacier, which has sprawled down its valley and is visible from the river. Its blue and white shape dominates the view for quite some time.
Continue to float towards Alsek Lake, spotting many species of birds, including bald eagles, semi-palmated plovers, spotted sandpipers, northern phalaropes, American pipits, and more. A few stops will be made along the way to explore this spectacular wilderness alongside the Alsek River.
Watch and listen as giant chunks of ice calve into the water from the 7-mile face of the Alsek glacier. Some icebergs are 75-feet high, indicating a depth below the surface at least twice as great. The guides will row among ice floes sculpted into bizarre, fluted, ever-changing phantasmagoric shapes - a veritable "iceberg garden."
After floating into the flat, forested plains beyond Alsek Bay, arrive at the Dry Bay Fishing Company outpost along the estuary of the Alsek River. Board a small aircraft for a spectacular charter flight to Yakutat in time for the scheduled Alaskan Airlines service to Juneau (the trip is tailored around this flight, and Juneau is your gateway city to other destinations).
Explore the Alsek River and wilderness in this extended hiking trip - a rare opportunity that no other outfitter offers
Raft one of the most legendary rivers in the world with long-time MT Sobek experienced river guides
Riverside camping features tasty meals and tales told by seasoned guides around a crackling campfire beneath the stars
Our expert guides and trip leaders are truly the key to our trips' success. Many are locals who live in-country year-round; others have made it their second home—all are passionate, enthusiastic and endlessly knowledgeable. Meet a few of the guides that might be on your trip.
Spectacular Class II-IV rafting along the mighty Alsek River, extended hikes through majestic landscapes, extraordinary wildlife spotting, and riverside camping
After the first evening in a Victorian-era style hotel, MT Sobek riverside camps, with meals served around the campfire beneath the stars.
Enjoy long Alaska days, with potential rain and chilly winds near glaciers. Daytime 55°-65°F. Evenings 40°-55°F.
We are making a border crossing into Canada, so you will need a passport as proof of nationality. Please check visa requirements for entering Canada if you are not a U.S. or Canadian citizen.
This trip is 3 days longer so the trip can slow down and take layover days in special campsites that offer extended hiking opportunities. We will not move camp on these days, and these hikes are optional.
MT Sobek provides synthetic sleeping bags, sleeping pads and expedition tents at no extra cost. We also provide rain gear, dry suits, and boots.
Prior rafting experience is not essential. However, this trip is an expedition with wilderness camping, so being an active participant willing to be caught in variable weather with a positive attitude is a must.
Not necessarily. We can make adjustments to our itinerary if the weather is not cooperating. This means sleeping in, delaying departure from camp, or other adjustments.
Make any of our trips a custom adventure or start from scratch. Take two itineraries and match them up to create a unique third. Add extras and extensions and more...if you can imagine it, we can make it happen!
"The Alsek River expedition was a transformative experience!"
MT Sobek Guest, Rafting & Hiking the Alsek River
"The Alsek is so unique and special. It is truly wild and untouched. I am so happy that I could be in that wonderful place."
MT Sobek Guest, Rafting & Hiking the Alsek River